tv Michele Sullivan Looking Up CSPAN March 25, 2020 7:00am-7:51am EDT
>> this week we have booktv programs showcasing what is available every weekend on c-span2. tonight we focus on science on the role society plays in gender identity. sean carroll on quantum mechanics and space time followed by journalist andrew blom on how a daily weather report is developed, watch booktv tonight starting at 8:00 pm eastern on c-span2. >> next, michele sullivan provides father leadership and philanthropy in her autobiography "looking up: how a different perspective turns obstacles into advantages". >> michele sullivan is with us
courtesy of robert and irene mcnamara. she recently retired as director of corporate social innovation and president of the caterpillar foundation. the philanthropic arm of the $46 billion manufacturing giant caterpillar inc.. in addition to her 30 year career in various leadership positions at the company she recently helped transform the foundation into one of the world's most influential corporate foundations, the launch of a collaborative impact platform known as together stronger, a catalyst for shared posterity, businesses, nonprofits, government and citizens to combine their strengths to alleviate poverty for millions of people worldwide. please give a warm savanna welcome to michele sullivan. [applause]
>> thank you so much and thank you to the savanna book festival for putting on a fabulous event. my first time here, i love it and i will definitely return and i love the weather. when i left home in illinois it was minus 8. i greatly appreciate the 60 degrees weather today. i also thank you for your time today. take her home and treat her like everybody else, the advice my parents gave over five decades ago on the day i was born. this is after he took an x-ray because i had a bit of a club foot and he discovered i had a type of work is him which a few years later they found out was another type of forces him. i like to think my parents
would have done that anyway, take me home and treat me like anybody else, affirmation is always nice. you may not think that was a big deal but back in the 60s people born with a disability were not treated like everybody else. to some extent that is true today unfortunately but things have definitely improved and i didn't know i was any different until i went to kindergarten. my big brother had gone to school when i was ready. my mom walked down the hall like i owned the place, stuck my chest out, wins in the classroom, the teacher told me to go in a circle and play with the kids until class started so i did that. i went over and got right into it. it didn't take but a few minutes and the boy next to me, i remember like it was yesterday.
he said in a loud voice hey, why are you so little? what is wrong with you. i didn't think he was talking to me so i kept playing, i had other things to do. it didn't take very long then another side of me a girl said yeah, why are you so little. i looked up and i could see all the other kids staring at me. i could feel the confidence go right out of me. i didn't understand why. ever had that feeling of being overlooked or underestimated or not being included? most people have sometime in their life. my first time was when i was 5 in kindergarten. i had no idea what just happened. as the day went on, i was outside the circle literally and figuratively. i wasn't included, i certainly wasn't sitting inside the circle so when i got into the
car my mom said how was it? is there something wrong with me? she's like she paused. never had my mom part or hesitate so it scared me. she goes we are all born different. it is the way god made us and you will be smaller than most people but you're still going to be able to do whatever you want to do. maybe in a different way, no pun intended but you will be able to do whatever you want. i had no idea what she was talking about it didn't make me feel better at the time but as i went into first grade and into second grade the kids i was in the same classroom they kind of got over it, they got to know me and it didn't become an issue but when i go out in public the stairs were always there and there came a point i didn't want to go out at all and i would get behind my parents. i wanted to hide. i didn't understand what was
happening. the gap increased. in second grade, the teacher introduced this math game calls all around the world and used flashcards, somebody stood next to the desk and whoever gave the answer first moving, they got to keep moving. i realized i was good at math. i was great at math and i always won around the world. when you won you got to take your animal out of the cage on the bulletin board, put it outside the cage. it is tall, which i am not. so i put my little animal on the outside.
it was the first time i started to realize what my parents were trying to tell me. there are two kinds of girls and this is one of the first chapters in my book "looking up: how a different perspective turns obstacles into advantages". we spent the first 18-20 years growing on the outside. for me it was ten years and then you spend 3 quarters of our lives growing on the inside because these kids started to say you know, michelle, the one that is smart at math, it wasn't michelle, that little girl, it was the first time i noticed i was known for something other than my size. i never had that before. i only had that feeling in school. when i went out in public it wasn't there but i started to realize i still am growing on the inside and you grow all your life.
think about your emotional stability, relationships, psychology, all these things that make who you are continues to leave all the rest of your life. the teacher taught us chess and we would play a lot. guess what? i was great at chest to the point i would win tournaments and there i was again. i would go into these halls and hated walking to the chess hall, a huge room, so many tables. when i walk in everybody was staring and i was like please just get me to my table. i would climb up the table and have to sit on my knees or i couldn't see and most of the
time, mostly boys, staring at me and a lot of times they were busy - a win is a win. and so i then get the trophy at the end, first time it happened this boy brought his mother over when the parents came to pick us all up and i go what is he going to say? i have my guard up and he goes this is the girl i told you about, she won, she won the whole thing. this girl, once again i was looked up to and as life goes on we learn the lessons and it still didn't help a lot when i go out in public, still needed other tools and resources and
my mom always told me start where you are, use what you have and do what you can and that is what we all do in life. we go at a different pace and so forth and then it came about trying to deal with my orthopedic problems. my type of dwarfism has a lot of hip and knee problems. i like to say i was born with my check engine light on lose that is how it is. my parents took me around the country to find someone that could help with my dysplasia and we were introduced by someone who happened to be the first person i ever met. i never met another little person until i was 12. i thought i was the only one. this is before you had cable tv and 300 channels. we went to baltimore to johns hopkins, along the way he called us in and the first thing he started talking about was my personal self.
i do have a rare type of dwarfism. i'm sure they never saw a person like me who had that type of divorce submitted and they treated me more like a specimen. asks about school and my personal life. was i going to college. i was 12, hadn't thought of that yet. his point you are more than your skeletal dysplasia. so i had a series of surgeries at johns hopkins and first time i went was 1979, i remember it very well. after the surgery i had this nurse named kathy who was a student nurse, 7 years older than me and was there the whole 10 days i was there and she always came in and we had a connection. i don't know what it was but
she was so open and had a lot of fun because it wasn't the most enjoyable environment but kathy made it enjoyable. it was so cool that she was going to college and being a nurse and it was time to go home. and she goes give me a call when you come back in 3 months for physical therapy. so time to come back and mom and i, should we call, should recall, what have you got to lose? we called and didn't get a word in edge wise, you're back in town and when i stayed for therapy and it was kathy that took me out, took me to her house, put me on her kitchen counter, no kidding and would do her homework and we would
chat and i thought she was the coolest person. she was my mentor. i looked up to her so much. and my parents tried for years and other people too, you realize you have to let your guard down for people to come in and i always had my guard up. even today you never know when someone will come up and say -- you have to be ready for everything. you have to let your guard down and let people know you. and i do that through school and people started to know who i am and what i was about. it had to be more than that. the only time you walk into a room you scan the room and think who can i talk to, who will be receptive to me and who
i am interested in regarding a particular reason. who do you want to talk to? people will look over me like i'm not even there. i understand that. it is a little awkward. my parents joke with me i was given the gift of gab. i use that to make the first move and talk to people and then they get comfortable and you start chitchatting. what goes along with that is a bit of humor. at the hotel if i needed to go to floor 10 i can only reach three. there is somebody in there, so you know what? i would really like to see how the view is on 10, with united in the button and they are laughing and when that really came in handy, i travel quite a bit for my job so i was on an
airplane, nature calls once in a while. i get up and go to the restroom and asked the flight attendant would you mind watching the door for me? sure, because i can't reach -- think how high it is. i'm four feet tall by the way. i'm in there doing my duty, just waiting, the door slides open and it is a man. what do you say? i said hello. i didn't know what to say. these points are important, things about the two types of growth, letting your guard down, making the first move,
asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. i had to ask the flight attendant to help me. i need help all the time. if you were here earlier i needed help on the stage and that is a strength, not a weakness. the other piece of that story in one of the chapters, whenever someone steps in it, i will say, it is important to have them save face. that felt a lot worse than i did. i sat in there longer than normal and i thought what am i going to do. i got to get out of here. what are the odds that he is sitting by me? i probably won't even see him again. so i come out, walking to my seat come in the aisle and there he was on the other side
of the aisle. i think he was put there on purpose because it gave me an opportunity to walk up to him. his face was already, so was mine. i walked up to him, leaned in and i said are you going to remember this as much as i am? and he goes, he laughs, he goes probably. however, i am sure he is not talking about it publicly like i am. but any time somebody does something like that or says something and i go into detail in one of the chapters about this because "looking up: how a different perspective turns obstacles into advantages" is about elevating the viewpoints and value of others. we all have value. i have looked up to people my whole life, literally. but it taught me the most
important posture which is to look up to people figuratively because we all have value and we are all dealing with challenges every day. you can see one of mine but it is not my only one. and so when you see people and they are not in the best of moods or whatever think about smiling or somehow making a gesture that gives them a positive feeling because you don't know what they are dealing with. are they dealing with financial problems? are they dealing with mental illness? are they dealing with infertility? any type of issue, you just don't know. the book is about -- minor size one by the way. we can walk side-by-side each other which is finally important. to get to know people like this
gentleman on the plane, we talked the rest of the flight. he was a sports person. so am i. we got to know each other. it started to break the ice. the most important thing for me from that plane ride was to make sure that he would talk to someone was different the next time, that he wouldn't shy away and look right past them. nobody likes to be overlooked for whatever reason. it was so important for me that day to leave him with a positive moment. when the plane landed he got up and set i noticed when you sat down somebody lifted your suitcase up. i said i have that effect on people. i can look up. i am not going to catapult that thing in there. he said can i get it down to
you? yes, thank you so much. that would not have happened had i not started to talk to him and we started getting to know each other and so when you try to influence people intimacy always works better than influence. when you start to break the ice, and get to know people and let your guard down you really come together with someone and start to look up to them and this is important because all my life people said you need to write a book. what about? about your life. we all have a life. we all have a story. i didn't think i was ready yet to write a book. and so as my life went on particularly as i started in caterpillar i started to notice a few things. i may have something to contribute but i am not ready yet. when i graduated college i
interviewed a caterpillar princess and i got the job. this was 31 years ago. handicapped people, not very many, they hired their smallest employee and on top of that a woman. i had a variety of jobs, it. i worked in marketing, art, etc.. when i first went into marketing it was in the north american commercial division, the most important division in terms of sales the company at the time in the 80s. i remember walking down the aisle on each side, glancing at the managers. halfway up there was a wall of glass. when i walked by they saw from here up, they saw the top of my head. that was it. like my kindergarten days, i remembered the first day walking in and all they saw was
the top of my head and i could hear people, what is that? going right by the window and it happened in every office. they didn't know me. like i said, getting to know people, intimacy works better than influence. here i went along the offices. i shouldn't have giggled but i felt it was funny. they had no idea, one office after another and the more i went the more i giggled and then it was my turn to show my value, my job was to figure out what their requirements were so they could do their job, what information did they need? and feed that into it and get that information to them. it was me who had to make the first move as i talk about in my book, to go in to the white all-american looking males
which they were back then and introduce myself, they are going what do you want? i said i am here to help you. really? and we started talking. and i went to all the managers and started realizing they all needed a similar type of recording and so i worked on that and not long after that all the recording came online and they started using it and i went back and asked how it was going and as they got familiar with it was going really well and then i remember the day i started walking back down and instead of the hustle and bustle figuring out who just walked by, it was michelle, come in. i came in and this is what i need now, this is great, okay.
i couldn't go down the aisle anymore without getting called into every office because they saw value in what i was doing but they had to get to know me and what my value was and in the book i talk about don't we all have a role to play, you have to show your value to people and they have to be open to see it because at the end of the day we all have 3 choices to make every day. one is we all have challenges and differences. am i going to live on the fringe and hide in the world and just let it be there or am i going to try to fit into the world as it is today or embrace your differences or your
challenges, treat them as assets, and realized they could be used to impact other people and we make that choice every day about whatever your challenge is and i have to do it too. my parents kicked me in the butt, we all have dinner parties but they can't last long. nobody likes a pity party but you do get down once in a while and i completely understand that. to this day kathy and i are best friends. he has impacted so many people's lives and it all started in 1979 in june when i met her and when you think about someone like that and a friendship that long there is something special variant kathy has looked up to so many people because she is a hospice nurse, a job i could not do but god bless her. when you think about the types of impact we have on each other that we can make that is very important. in the book i go on to highlight people i have looked
up to like kathy and we all need people to hang around with and lean on when something really good happens or something not so good happens. i call it my kitchen table. you will probably go to something really bad happens, we used to have dinner every night, how was your day? when you are a kid the most important thing is johnny puked today and went all over -- went into detail, right? other than that, how was your day? they tried to get at what did you learn today and so forth. my kitchen table was very important in my life because there are days i would get
teased, got knocked down. when i got knocked down flat in the emergency room, you know, you don't always have to be right in the middle of the action and sometimes you go to the side and through the cloud because people can't see you. i didn't understand that. i kept walking in the middle. you know those things you hit and they bounced back up, that would be me. when you think about it, your kitchen table, one that is once you get your head around your opportunity or challenge, you expand out a little bit and tell more people and i call that my village. i have a tremendous village, just come here today i have people who helped me get here,
fly here, get on the stage, helped me around yesterday and it changes, your kitchen table changes as your life changes. maybe you haven't talked to them in a decade and low and behold something happened, they reach out to you and it is like no time has passed. that is another piece of you have to ask for help. here is one where i talked to my village about a great opportunity. i have been involved since master class in since i was a teenager and it is a passion of mine. my dad worked -- my sister still works in cad, the headquarters was in illinois. i knew i would have a great
career working there. i had the first 23 years in and met a product manager's office out of the city and my boss sends me an email. it happens, now what happens? how often does your boss say either it happened or you have an opportunity. i go hey, leslie, what is up. what happened? i write in detail about this. once somebody got it, it started in 1952, and they have the facility.
it was a dream job. talking to those folks, i always wanted that job. it was a highly visible job, so impactful which was the most important thing, she goes do you want to put in for it. i knew i couldn't do it by myself so i went home to my kitchen table. my sister and my mom. i knew it would impact them, they said go for it. my mom said i get first dibs. you got it. a bunch of people put in. my friend leslie on my behalf
as i wrote in the book wrote a note to the person, the hiring manager and she thought i would be great for the job and so i was one of three people who got interviewed, the manager had to get an okay by the ceo. they represent caterpillar, the caterpillar foundation, the brand, everything and so the hiring manager shared his choice. doug new my work from the years before that. he had always seen my work because i worked in a lot of areas he did as he moved up and he gave his blessing and i couldn't believe it. i could not believe it. i called my mom and my sister and i just can't believe it and it dawned on me, now we had to
go. what are we going to do? i was prepared. people always said we have a way to make an impact, here is yours. i got the job and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it opened up my eyes to those living in poverty especially extreme poverty. as i visited around the world, obviously for instance in africa they normally don't see someone like me, normally a little person but blonde hair, even from a bottle. a scooter. and so they would stand and pause. what is interesting is when i would visit school the kids came running, another person to play with. we are seeing eye to eye.
in the book i talk about how some people don't care what you look like. so many people don't care. children are as happy as can be and have the same aspirations we all have and i look up to them so much because they are going to go get it too. they know what they want and our investments are helping but it is all internal to them too and they are growing on the inside as they talk about and i met betty who was a farmer in uganda. a couple had stars of land, it is all manual. one of the not-for-profits we supported, a small business loan, $100, $200, she said i am
doing this, i want my children to go to school, education is key. the same thing my mom told us, my siblings and myself. education and they have the same aspirations we have here. i look up to betty so much because there she is day after day farming manually, happy as can be, knowing that her children are going to be okay. it really struck me because it does not matter what you have. it is how you think and what your perspective is. same thing when i met with the people working or living in poverty in the united states when you talk to them. a lot of them are mothers and if you get the mothers and
girls educated in a way they support their family the family gets out of poverty a lot of the time and girls and women became a key focus for us and our collaborative platform is to work for the not-for-profits like we should work together to help each other and look up to each other and when we focus on girls and women if you break up the word together it was together stronger. people -- you work for caterpillar, you are a republican. i have been called a loss of things, but -- okay. and other people, you work for the foundation, you are a democrat. all right. actually i am a collaborator. i think we should all collaborate together and you get a bigger impact that way. it is funny how we have labels
and i get put in a lot of them and yet at the end of the day i can't do anything without other people helping me and i look up to so many people and when you think about making the first move, how do i make an impact on the world, how do i look up to other people, you have everything you need. it is all in the heart and inside of you and take the time to get to know people, and a couple that i met, don and joann, live in chicago. i go into detail in the last chapter of the book called the real measure of intent and it talks -- they retired and went on vacation and they ended up finding a piece of land and a school where the deacons live
and when he got this farmland, he wants to start a school for children with disabilities but never had the money and they weren't asking to tell me the time for the money, they started thinking and went back and got the kitchen table together and it kept denying at them. this might be something. and so they go on to raise enough money to open the school and it is called f a r h a school and it means comfort in swahili. they have 100 students and i visited there. at the time, i could only spend a couple hours at each partnership. i spent a whole day at the school. the sixth of the children were little people i noticed and
others had cerebral palsy, so exciting to be there. the children lived there full-time and they get a great education, food, three meals a day, computer lab, we danced and had a great time and i talked to every student's. what do you think they wanted to be? accountants, nurses, everything we wanted as i looked up to them and told them i would be back and revisit the school. what is interesting is they totally impact the country of tanzania because that school is one of the highest performing schools in tanzania. tell me they don't look up to
those children, children who do not give the time of day there at all. and they are so well performing that the government has taken notice. now they make it so that businesses should hire people with disabilities because the school is highlighting how successful they are in education so think, they dropped a pebble at the school and the ripples of gone out and made a generational impact because they went on vacation in tanzania. i wish i could make the impact they have. when you think about your life and who you looked up to and who has looked up to you rarely in life do you do anything by yourself. think about and reflect what you have done in life and have you been there alone or has there been people behind you the whole way and think about
who you have been behind and the successes you have made for other people which is quite exciting and sometimes i take a step back. for instance all times my mom and dad tell me don't go right down the middle or give the middle of everything, think about what you are doing before you get into it and i remember i laughed because i think about the lessons my parents taught me. i was in college, i won't tell you all the stories, we don't talk about all of them but i was late for class and needed to stop at the student center to grab a sandwich and go to the building behind there and with a semi-in front of the door, to me semi-plaps a really
long and i pondered for a moment that is a long walk around so i had the bright idea of cutting into it down the middle. i walked into it and the engine started. i won't tell you what i got. it was one of those moments, before we knew what omg was and i thought - i only have one speed. i walk, that is it. i did find another speed that day. luckily, when you start a semi-it doesn't just take off like a car. it lunges and does other things. i hurried across and got through with the driver is hanging out the window and he is looking at me and i go thanks and he is like listen, i can't imagine what he thought. as i go through life i remember
the lessons my parents taught me and i still ponder them because i want to make sure i can be all i can be because at the end of the day the impact is we all want to be seen for who we are and what we can be. the greatest gift you can give anybody is to not only let them -- that you see them for all they can be but you also let them see in themselves what they haven't seen and to me that is exciting and so many people have done that and i talk about that in the book and the people i met with the foundation and people i met throughout my life that helped and i get to help them back now.
what is interesting is in 2018, the tomes received the point of life award which president h w bush started. it is an award you get for service and volunteering and they were so deserving because they totally changed the attitude of the country because of their school. not to mention the impact they are having on those children and their family. when i think about points of life and looking up, it is a lighthouse sitting on a bluff overlooking the ocean, it is there to shine for others and it doesn't choose who it is going to shine on. it sits and waits for her level across its life. to protect, serve and
illuminate a path for others it sits and waits for something like that. so for me the tomes and people who illuminated that path for me is in the book and a lot of people, the foundation and other people i partner with, those who illuminated the path for others. think about as you read the book who has illuminated your path, whose path you can eliminate and keep looking up because the view is great, thank you. [applause] if you have any
questions? >> how did the book come about. were you approached? >> should have circled back to that. after the foundation works i started to figure out all the people as i said who eliminated my past but who i see are so uplifting and i didn't want the story to be just about me. it was important, the majority of the book is about others and the impact they made and how they made the impact and how you can make an impact in the world because the world is very divisive -- divided and we need to come together and stop using labels or whatever labels people give us. if we come together more we can
have more of an impact on everybody instead of being so divided. instead of being kids we didn't always agree but respected each other. today that is not the case. if you don't agree with me i will prove you wrong and that is not the way to be. we need to be more collaborative and compromising and the title "looking up: how a different perspective turns obstacles into advantages," i look up, i am four feet tall but also it taught me the greatest posture, to have an elevated view of others and we should all have that. we all have value. as we leave today, meet the new people around you, love you is great. thank you. we have a question.
>> it is funny, you don't know you are different until somebody tells you. >> my question, still experiences those, she's in her 30s now and experiences those times in public and i experienced them with her that are just -- they are adults as well, so intense that you just want to cringe. is there anything. she is very vocal. she has worked outside the home, the first to forge through the school system, has
a huge group of friends but i have noticed when we are in public i see her melt into the wheelchair. >> i feel the same sometimes. i say it doesn't bother me as much as it used to but there are days it gets to you a lot. you have a choice. you try to move past. i do lean in more today and i will if someone made it known they are looking or making fun or something that i will introduce myself. it is hard to think poorly of someone if they know a little bit about you so i do tend to lean in more but there are days of delay is, that i say a few words to myself and i don't do
that, it won't do anything. my family feels the same way as you do for her. there are more people who are open to you. we all have challenges, the same people i challenged every day, we don't know exactly what it is or what they are dealing with so we need to be patient and open and help them if we can or acknowledge they are having a bad day but don't think poorly of them and don't judge them because we don't know what happened. we have to recognize that in other people as well but it is difficult.
thank you for your time today. >> this week we have booktv programs showcasing what is available on c-span2. tonight we focus on science study with gina ribbon on the role society plays in gender identity. sean carroll on quantum mechanics and space-time and how a daily weather report is developed. watch booktv on c-span2. >> after five days of negotiating, mitch mcconnell and democratic leader chuck schumer came to the senate floor to announce an agreement